To the easties, Tampines is a stop on the MRT line that you want to get past so you can finally get a seat on the train after the throng of passengers alight from the train station. In the morning, some passengers also choose to travel past this station before bouncing back from Pasir Ris to avoid being trapped in the crowd. Tampines is indeed very crowded for many good reasons – from their malls to Tampines IKEA/Giant/Courts to Our Tampines Hub, there is something for everyone of all ages.
Tampines is also an area boasting rich heritage, little known to people living outside of this area, and we hope to uncover more about this amazing place today so that we can all remember Tampines as more than “a crowded place”.
1. Tampines named after the Tempinis tree
Tampines was formerly known as Tampinis. At one time, it was even known as Tampenis with the oldest road in the vicinity being named as Tampenis Road in 1864 (thank goodness it’s no longer so!). There were several variations to its name and it was only until 1939 during the Malay Union that the former Singapore Rural Board (a separate board in charge of rural districts) decided to standardise the name to Tampines and all variations were then amended accordingly. However, there were still some concerns that the new name would prove confusing to the newly-arrived Europeans who might mistake the area for having pine trees!
In actual fact, this part of Singapore was indeed named after a hardwood tree – there was an abundant supply of the Tempinis tree (Streblus elongatus) in the area and the trees were very profitable. Timber from the tree was useful in making oars, furniture and even the spinning top used in games while the sweet fruits of the tree were enjoyed by birds, monkeys and squirrels. Today, the tree can still be found in many parts of Tampines after community leaders took the effort to preserve this heritage by planting this tree all over Tampines.
See if you’re able to spot the Tempinis tree at Sun Plaza Park! 🙂
2. Tampines Quarry hidden from the public’s eye
The famous Tampines Quarry, a hidden gem nestled behind a thick tree-line
Sand quarrying was a serious business for Singapore in the 1960s as building materials were in high demand for the construction of public housing estates. It is hard to imagine the Tampines we know today, a modern and bustling residential town which won the World Habitat Award in 1991, as an old town with over 20 sand quarries at its peak. The quarries were privately owned and lorries carrying sand out of the Tampines area were a common sight for the then kampong dwellers.
By the 80s, the Government took over the quarry operations from private operators in a bid to address the environmental issues caused by cheap mining for sand. All sand quarries eventually stopped operating as the demand for sand dwindled. However, two former quarries still “exist” today – one of them has been converted into Bedok Reservoir while the other located along Tampines Avenue 10 remains untouched. The latter is said to be about 30 meters deep with rainwater collected over time. The famous Tampines Quarry, a hidden gem nestled behind a thick tree-line, is still a favourite spot for speedhunters who take their radio-controlled (RC) boats out for a spin in the calm waters over the weekend.
P.s. RC boating are permitted at all National Parks Boards parks so proceed with caution.
3. Father and son busker at Tampines MRT
Do you recall the father and son busker who tugged at the heartstrings of Singaporeans at National Day Parade (NDP) 2018 with their inspirational story? Mr Mashruddin Saharuddin, visually-impaired from birth, was first spotted busking with his son Nizaruddin at Tampines MRT (their regular spot) some years ago. Their amazing performances were captured on camera and the videos made rounds on social media.
Last year, they were featured in a series of film shown at the parade and were also invited to perform a number on the NDP stage. Mr Mashruddin started his busking career out of necessity and pushed on despite facing obstacles – restaurants featuring musicians started closing down and having frequent run-ins with the police (back then busking was still illegal). His son, who sings and plays the guitar, made a choice to busk with his father on the streets to experience what his father went through.
Let us know if you still spot the duo busking at Tampines MRT!
4. Watermelon and mangosteen playgrounds at Tampines Central Park
Concrete, mosaic retro playgrounds are a rare sight in Singapore these days as Singapore have stopped making them since 1993. Most housing estates now feature modular playgrounds with standard plastic playsets with rubber mats (no longer sand pits) that are imported from overseas.
When we think of retro playgrounds, the dragon playground comes to mind. Did you know that playgrounds of yesteryears were designed based on themes? In the 80s, playgrounds were built based on nursery rhymes, animals and even fruits and vegetables! Some also featured local elements such as bumboats, trishaw etc. In the 90s, playgrounds were inspired by popular cartoon characters around the world!
The watermelon and mangosteen playgrounds at Tampines Central Park are one of the last few larger-than-life retro playgrounds left standing in Singapore. HDB architect Lee-Loy Kwee Wah had originally thought of designing a durian-themed playground but abolished the idea as he was afraid that the thorns may be too dangerous.
5. Hipster ice-cream cafe at Tampines West
Hipster cafes are so “in-trend” right now that if you have a hipster cafe in your neighbourhood, your housing area automatically becomes “cooler”. This ice-cream cafe named “Three’s A Crowd” is located within walking distance from Tampines West MRT and is well-known for their handmade ice cream (did we mention waffles too?), cakes and milkshakes!
This ice-cream establishment is also now Halal-Certified to better cater to the Muslim ice-cream lovers too! How wonderful!
Leave us a comment below and share with us what else you love about Tampines.